Author: Andrea Cremer
Genre: YA Fiction, Supernatural/Paranormal
Publication Date: 2010
Purchase Price: $18.00 (hardcover)
I’ve had Nightshade on my TBR list for some time — but because my local library is woefully inadequate, I could only get my hands on the audio book. It’s not that I don’t like audio books—they’re great on long car trips, as I discovered—but I hate listening to them at home. I have to be sitting still to stay focused, and doing so anywhere but in a car is a bit of a trial for me.
So I listened to Rebecca Lowman read Nightshade — for 12 freaking hours. A book that I could have read myself in less than a day stretched over a week. This becomes important later on. In the meantime, some thoughts.
Just off the mark
Okay, let’s be honest for a minute: this entire genre of paranormal, supernatural, vampires and werewolves and forbidden love, yadda yadda yadda — it’s crap. Fancy and entertaining, yes, but crap nonetheless.
People like to blame Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series for kicking off the downward spiral into mindlessness, but that’s a bit shortsighted. People have always been obsessed with monsters, vampires, werewolves, the occult, and all things beyond our understanding or explaining; Meyer just packaged it for teens.
While I enjoyed Nightshade for the most part, I think I’m just outside the target market. If I were a bit younger, I probably would have been swooning all over the place. As it is, I’m just jaded enough to do an excessive amount of eye rolling. At one point my notes consisted of bullet points:
- Her mom is the most annoying person ever.
- I’ve lost count of the uses of the words “my body” and “his body.”
- I wish people would stop asking Calla if she’s okay!
Notes on audio
12 hours seemed like a long time, especially when the only parts the narrator seemed to linger on was all the drippy/sexual stuff. I wanted to hear less about the love triangle and more about Keepers, Seekers, and Guardians. At one point I almost stopped listening, convinced that there was no more to the plot than romance and sexual tension.
Cremer would have done well to introduce the mystery sooner, although she does a good job of feeding you tantalizing pieces of the puzzle. As far as halfway through, I wasn’t planning on reading the sequel, Wolfsbane, but now I think I’ll have to, just so I can know how and if the characters find the answers for which they’re looking.
I was able to enjoy the mystery aspect more than I would have had I read the book, though. Normally I can skim to the next page, or (horror of horrors) flip to the back page. But with the audio I was unable to skim or skip, and I think that helped me stay more in the story as it happened. On the down side, though, I was unable to skip through all the drippy romance stuff for fear of missing a detail that was important to the larger story.
One awesome moment
Despite the creepy, sexually possessive vibes most of the male characters seem to have, throughout Nightshade there are some moments of pure feminist genius. While Calla’s mother is overly obsessed with ensuring that her daughter remains “a lady,” and everyone else seems way too interested in making sure Calla stays “pure,” Calla hits the nail on the head:
“As if I want to be a lady. All it means is that I have to pretend I don’t feel anything but a sense of duty.”
I think that statement is just as relevant now as it was 50 years ago, or even 100 or 200.
I wish that Nightshade played less into the stereotypes: possessive, jealous men; sexual possession; the idea that such themes should be presented in a way to titillate readers.
Instead, there should have been more focus on the mystery, the secrets that the Keepers have kept. It’s the mystery and the need to know what happens that, for me anyway, made the cringe-worthy “teen romance” aspects bearable.
“I fought off the desire to snatch the pen and start a game of keep away.”
“If you’re a real student of literature, and I mean the good stuff—Chaucer, Shakespeare—you figure out that only souls who truly reflect each other make good love matches. If they can find each other, that is.”
What do you think of supernatural/paranormal YA fiction? Are the female characters strong and empowering, or do they play into the same old stereotypes?